(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 2/5.)
Everyone accepts that Luigi Pirandello’s 1921 play is a seminal theatrical work. But how do we actually stage it today? In Rupert Goold’s 2008 revival it was, somewhat confusingly, relocated to the world of TV docudrama. This striking production, in French with English surtitles, by Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota for the Théâtre de la Ville in Paris, sticks closer to Pirandello’s text while adding its own interpretative layers.
It starts with a company rehearsing Pirandello’s The Rules of the Game. One is instantly struck by the satiric portrayal of the director as a tin god who conducts the text rather than explores it and treats his actors as if they were slaves to his will. Then the six characters arrive, demanding that their tragic story be told: one that hinges on the father’s unwittingly making love to the stepdaughter in a carefully camouflaged brothel. Intrigued and horrified, the company of actors attempt to give the tale theatrical life.